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7 Ways to Scale Your Affiliate Program

By Erica Carter | August 25, 2019

Erica is currently a Performance Marketing Manager at Scott’s Cheap Flights. Previously, she was a Marketing Manager for Ibotta, specializing in growth and performance for their B2C efforts through various User Acquisition tactics. Erica oversaw Ibotta’s Affiliate Marketing Program, programmatic and paid strategies. Erica holds a BA from Binghamton University’s School of Management and previously worked at Realtor.com (TigerLead) as a Performance Marketing Manager.

Learn more from her Mobile Hero profile.

Affiliate marketing is reaching more volume than ever before. According to CJ Affiliates, affiliate spending will reach over $6.8 billion by 2020 compared to $4.78 billion in 2016. This is due to various reasons including a growing number of people are relying on publishers and influencers to validate their purchase habits.

Affiliates and influencers have gained trust over their audience. This results in not only driving quality users but volume as well for advertisers. Overall, in just the last 2 years, we’ve seen affiliate network participation for content rise 175% and revenue driven by publishers increase 240%.

For advertisers, if you aren’t utilizing affiliates in your marketing mix, you could be missing out on quality traffic and scale. Here are my 7 Best Practices to scaling an affiliate marketing program.

1) Understand Your Goals 

One of the main reasons affiliate marketing performs so well is that it is performance-based. You can pay off your main KPI and get started at a low cost. Don’t be afraid to start with a lower CPA than you would think otherwise. It’s easier to start low then increase through incentives over time. Just make sure you have a solid grasp of your LTV and retention metrics. Once your affiliate partners are able to prove that they can deliver quality users, increase the payout and scale from there.

2) Recruit the Right Affiliates

Recruiting is one of the most difficult and time-intensive aspects of growing an affiliate program—if you aren’t consistently recruiting, you are leaving tons of traffic behind. Although time consuming, here are a few quick tips to help you get off the ground:

  1. Google Alerts – Set up Google alerts for similar brands as yours. Learn what blogs are creating content for them and reach out to them.
  2. SERPs – Utilize SERP results. Type in various keywords associated with your brand to identify potential partners.
  3. Affiliate Programs – Utilize an affiliate program to identify affiliates within their ecosystem.
  4. Recruiting Schedule – Set up a recruiting schedule. You are ultimately proving to affiliates the value you are able to provide to them. Emailing one and done isn’t going to work, so don’t hesitate to reach out multiple times. In your email explain your brand, your offer and how you can help them make extra money.

3) Communicate Often

Finding and accepting affiliates is only going to get you partially there. You will want to communicate with your affiliates on a consistent basis to keep your brand top of mind. Communicate when new products are launched, new creative is available, and share general best practices on how to promote your brand.  Weekly newsletters are ideal, but at a minimum communicate once a month.

4) Give Direction

Give direction to your partners on how to best communicate your brand and value prop. This can be in the form of a media kit or brand book. Some affiliates may not know exactly how to position your brand,  so the more information the better. Give as much guidance as you can to point them in the right direction.

5) Incentivize Your Affiliates Based on Segments

Don’t be afraid to incentive affiliates. You can do this a variety of different ways, but ultimately determine your goals to see what makes sense for your business.

  1. New Affiliates – If a new affiliate hasn’t posted, offer an extra bonus to start creating content.
  2. Silent Affiliates – Do you have affiliates that used to create content but stopped? If so, reach out with a small bonus to get them posting again.
  3. Performance-Based – Analyze performance of your affiliates on a continual basis.  Ideally you will be paying against your main KPI, but look at LTV. If certain partners are providing higher quality users with a stronger LTV, reach out and offer an incentive or higher payout for additional volume.
  4. Measure Incremental Impact – For any incentive bonus, or additional bonus, measure the impact this has on incremental volume or quality of users to ensure that every extra dollar is reaching your goals.

6) Refresh Your Creative

The creative that you provide affiliates should ideally be similar to what you are using for your performance-based channels. Does your creative communicate the value of your app? Do they include a CTA? Make sure you are providing your affiliates with direct response ad creative.

7) Maintain Visibility 

As with digital, track and analyze everything. Be sure that the correct data metrics are being passed back to you so that you know which ad creative, partner and content is driving the best performance. If partners aren’t willing to share this information, reconsider working with them.

Hopefully, some of these tips help with growth and good luck!